Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ken Gets Homelessness (Wednesday LINKS)

Yesterday evening, along with what appeared to be half of Howard County, I attended the Columbia Foundation's Spring Party.  This has become one of my favorite nights of the year and last night did not disappoint.  The Horowitz Performing Arts Center (lobby) is a beautiful space to hold an event and I hope the Community College continues to offer it to outside non-profits for fundraisers.

About two hours in, County Executive Ken Ulman came into the building.  Or as Jane later said "everybody started looking at us" (we were standing next to the door that the Executive had entered).  Haters are going to hate, but it is neat to have that person that draws the air in on a room, regardless of whether you agree with the guy on the issues.

Shortly after chatting with some County movers and shakers, Ken came over to chat with my group of folks.  Knowing that his time was limited, I thanked the Executive for allocating $366,500 to help fund the Plan to End Homelessness.  He very well could have nodded and changed the subject to a less controversial topic like the burgeoning Orioles or the weather (I talked about the weather so much yesterday), he explained the problem as he sees it and what he wants to do to fix it.

But these weren't talking points.  This was an engineer's description of a broken machine.  And in terms of the homeless problem, it is all a problem of relays.  Our systems are not talking with one another and people are falling through the gaps.  There are looming structural problems, like the inadequacy of overall crisis and recovery housing, but in terms of the primary focus of prevention, most of the resources are there, they just aren't talking to one another.  Based on just my unscientific survey of chatting with folks, there are at least 5 different organizations that can fund "that critical rent payment", yet people are still evicted from their homes without ever seeing that chance.  The mental health safety net is thick, yet we still have sick people living on the streets.

Most people steeped in government and County budgets may not think that $360,000 is a lot of money and its not, at least not in terms of the scope of what is expected (i.e., ending homelessness).  But I truly believe that Ken gets this problem in ways more sophisticated and deep than myself and is dedicated to seeing this money produce clear and recognizable results.

This won't be a project that is completed within his term.  As much as I would like to see homelessness eradicated in two years, it probably will take that long just to have the program infrastructure in place to take action.  From that perspective, there's very little political return Ken can expect from this investment.  But I certainly appreciate it and am confident that the decisions made in this direction over the next two years will provide new lives for hundreds of Howard County citizens.  That is a return all its own.


Seventy-five percent of the new tax burden passed by the Senate (and soon by the House) will fall on taxpayers in "Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties."  Howard residents are projected to pay an average of $575 more this year than last.  That's an arbitrary way to look at tax increases, but still one that we in Howard should care about.  The article also notes increased taxes on tobacco products and higher fees for certain state services.  Most concerning, as is normally the case with higher income taxes, will be the effect these increases have on S corporations.  These filers are typically small business owners who pay taxes individually as opposed to creating a separate legal entity and paying corporate taxes.  But even worse than that is the fact those facing higher taxes most likely have not been withholding correctly.  That means they will have to make up for about six months of "back payments" in future withholding.  Just for the sake of symmetry, can we please call this the Doomsday Taxes to pair with the Doomsday Budget?

O's beat the Yankees 5-2...and Yankee fans show, yet again, that they cannot keep their 30-year-old gloves inside the stands when the ball is in play.  

Howard County resident Kathryn Manion won the "most lucrative undergraduate literary award in the country."  Nice job, Kathryn!  Don't forget to have book signings in Hoco (if they still do those types of things five years from now).

The Administrative Hearing to remove Board of Education Member Allen Dyer from office is in recess until June 6, but with a pending Motion to Dismiss, it may not go much further.  According to this piece by Joe Burris, the Judge's parting words would seem to be damning for the Board's position, wherein it was suggested that the charges are not clear, and that this fault is "becoming increasingly more relevant."  From my perspective, we would all be better off if it ended there.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Sarah (two days in a row!) looks at StreetScores and Walkability around Columbia, starting with Owen Brown.  I love that "Banking" is on lock down.  What can you walk to around here?  Oh, well, I can put on my shoes and take out a loan, but in terms of just about everything else, I need to get in my car.

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!